March 5, 2010
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The 25th-ranked men's tennis team was edged by No. 11 Georgia 4-2 Friday in its Southeastern Conference opener at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium. The Crimson Tide was down 3-0 in the match before singles wins by senior Houssam Yassine and freshman Jarryd Botha brought Alabama within one. With the loss, the Tide drops to 6-6 overall and 0-1 in the conference, while Georgia improves to 8-2 on the season and 1-0 against league opponents.
"The team gave a courageous effort today to come back from being down 3-0," head coach Billy Pate said. "We battled back to really have a chance to win, but unfortunately we came up on the short end. I thought we fought really hard, and I'm very proud of how we played. If we can continue this type of play we are going to be very successful."
The doubles point was tightly contested, with Georgia able to claim wins on courts two and three to take the point. Bulldog juniors Javier Garrapiz and Drake Bernstein, ranked No. 34 in the nation, were first to complete their match, breaking sophomore Ricky Doverspike and Botha four times en route to an 8-2 victory at the No. 2 position. Alabama battled back with a win on court one, as senior Saketh Myneni and sophomore Michael Davis broke serve in the opening game of the match against senior duo Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg. That would be the only break the Tide tandem needed, as they took the match 8-6. The momentum was short lived for Alabama, as Georgia's senior Christian Vitulli and freshman Bo Seal defeated junior Trey Walston and Yassine 8-4 at the No. 3 spot.
Things turned very grim for the Tide quickly in singles action, as Vitulli was able to put away Davis on court six 6-1, 6-4. Davis did manage to fight back from a 5-1 deficit in the second set, but Vitulli held comfortably at 5-4 to win the match. The Bulldogs took a 3-0 lead when No. 29 Garrapiz cruised past No. 38 Myneni at the No. 1 position, taking the match 6-2, 6-1. Myneni struggled on serve the entire match, getting broken five times.
The Tide finally got on the board thanks to Yassine's 6-4, 6-2 win over Bernstein on court five. The first set was on serve the entire way until Yassine broke at 5-4 to take the set. In the second set, the Alabama senior secured the break much earlier in the second, taking the final four games of the set to claim the victory.
The momentum continued to swing in the Tide's favor, as Botha fought through a tough match to defeat Hunt 6-2, 7-6(4) at the No. 3 spot. Botha dominated in the first, and appeared to be in for an easy straight-sets victory. He served for the match at 5-3 in the second, but Hunt was able to break for the first time. The set eventually went into a tiebreak, with Botha winning the first two points. Hunt would even the score at 3-3, but Botha took control from there, winning it seven points to four.
"Jarryd (Botha) picked up a huge win against a very experienced player in Jamie Hunt," Pate added. "This was a great win for a freshman to get under his belt."
The final two matches of the day involved tense three-set matches. On court two, No. 105 Schnugg earned a break lead over Doverspike at 1-1 in the first set, breezing through the set 6-3. The two players exchanged breaks in the middle of the second set, but then held serve the rest of the way to force a tiebreak, which was as closely contested as the entire second set. Doverspike was able to come up with clutch shots on the big points, winning the tiebreak seven points to five. In the final set, Doverspike drew first blood, breaking for a 4-2 lead. However, Schnugg would break right back to tie the score at 4-4. The Georgia senior held on to make it 5-4 and force Doverspike to serve for the match, then produced a few powerful returns to break the serve of Doverspike to clinch the match for the Bulldogs.
At the No. 4 spot, sophomore Michael Thompson and Seal were early in the third set when play was halted due to Schnugg's clinching victory. Seal was able to fight back from a 2-4 deficit in the opening set to take it 6-4. In the second set, it was Thompson who staged a comeback falling behind a break at 4-3 and 5-4. Thompson was able to break back both times, managing to win the final three games of the set to force a third. He had a 2-1 lead and a break point for 3-1 when the match was stopped.
Next up, Alabama hosts No. 2 Tennessee at 1:00 p.m. (CST) on Sunday. The match will serve as Campus Kids Day that will include a chance for children to hit tennis balls before the match, meet Big Al, stencil their racquets with Alabama "A"s and eat free pizza. Admission to all tennis matches is free.
1. No. 29 Javier Garrapiz (UGA) def. No. 38 Saketh Myneni (UA) 6-2, 6-1
2. No. 105 Nate Schnugg (UGA) def. Ricky Doverspike (UA) 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4
3. Jarryd Botha (UA) def. Jamie Hunt (UGA) 6-2, 7-6(4)
4. Michael Thompson (UA) vs. No. 104 Bo Seal (UGA) 4-6, 7-5, 2-1, unf.
5. Houssam Yassine (UA) def. Drake Bernstein (UGA) 6-4, 6-2
6. Christian Vitulli (UGA) def. Michael Davis (UA) 6-1, 6-4
Order of Finish: 6,1,5,3,2*